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“I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence.” —Socrates “The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew…it passes into other habitations, for the soul is immortal.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson “I did not begin when I was born, nor when I was conceived. I have been growing, developing, through incalculable myriads of millenniums.…All my previous selves have their voices, echoes, promptings in me.…Oh, incalculable times again shall I be born.” —Jack London The Star Rover “There is no death. How can there be death if everything is part of the Godhead? The soul never dies and the body is never really alive.” —Isaac Bashevis Singer Nobel laureate Stories from Behind the Stove “He saw all these forms and faces in a thousand relationships…become newly born. Each one was mortal, a passionate, painful example of all that is transitory. Yet none of them died, they only changed, were always reborn, continually had a new face: only time stood between one face and another.” —Herman Hesse Nobel laureate Siddhartha “ ‘Do you have any idea how many lives we must have gone through before we even got the first idea that there is more to life than eating, or fighting, or power in the Flock? A thousand lives, Jon, ten thousand! …We choose our next world through what we learn in this one.…But you, Jon, learned so much at one time that you didn’t have to go through a thousand lives to reach this one.’ ” —Richard Bach Jonathan Livingston Seagull “As we live through thousands of dreams in our present life, so is our present life only one of many thousands of such lives which we enter from the other more real life…and then return after death. Our life is but one of the dreams of that more real life, and so it is endlessly, until the very last one, the very real the life of God.” —Count Leo Tolstoy Table of Contents Preface Introduction Chapter 1: Reincarnation: Socrates to Salinger Chapter 2: Changing Bodies Chapter 3: Soul Research Chapter 4: Three Histories of Reincarnation Chapter 5: The Soul’s Secret Journey Chapter 6: The Logic of Reincarnation Chapter 7: Almost Reincarnation Chapter 8: Don’t Come Back Glossary From Chapter One Reincarnation: Socrates to Salinger For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval He is not slain when the body is slain. Bhagavad-gita 2.20 Does life begin with birth and end with death? Have we lived before? Such questions are normally identified with religions of the East, where the life of man is known to endure not only from the cradle to the grave, but through millions of ages, and acceptance of the idea of rebirth is nearly universal. As Arthur Schopenhauer, the great nineteenth-century German philosopher, once observed, “Were an Asiatic to ask me for a definition of Europe, I should be forced to answer him: It is that part of the world which is haunted by the incredible delusion that man was created out of nothing, and that his present birth is his first entrance into life.”1 Indeed, the dominant ideology of the West, material science, has for several centuries stifled any serious or widespread interest in the preexistence and survival of consciousness beyond the present body. But throughout Western history, there have always been thinkers who have understood and affirmed the immortality of consciousness and transmigration of the soul. And a multitude of philosophers, authors, artists, scientists, and politicians have given the idea thoughtful consideration. Ancient Greece Among the ancient Greeks, Socrates, Pythagoras, and Plato may be numbered among those who made reincarnation an integral part of their teachings. At the end of his life, Socrates said, “I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring from the dead.”2 Pythagoras claimed he could remember his past lives, and Plato presented detailed accounts of reincarnation in his major works. Briefly, he held that the pure soul falls from the plane of absolute reality because of sensual desire and then takes on a physical body. First, the fallen souls take birth in human forms, the highest of which is that of the philosopher, who strives for higher knowledge. If his knowledge becomes perfect, the philosopher can return to an eternal existence. But if he becomes hopelessly entangled in material desires, he descends into the animal species of lite. Plato believed that gluttons and drunkards may become asses in future lives, violent and unjust people may take birth as wolves and hawks, and blind followers of social convention may become bees or ants. After some time, the soul again attains the human form and another chance to achieve liberation.3 Some scholars believe that Plato and other early Greek philosophers derived their knowledge of reincarnation from mystery religions like Orphism, or from India.
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